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Sunday, 5 July 2020

Internet Explorers

If waking up some mornings with the lockdown blues, here are some alternative on-line wildlife events, some local, some not so local ... 

Agile Rabbit, University of Exeter-based, talks on various topics from top name speakers, including on wildlife research and conservation subjects. Past talks back to 2018 viewable on embedded YouTube podcasts on Agile Rabbit webpage

For live talks, join by Zoom

Art and Energy Moths to a flame – Devon-based, learn about moths each month this summer and take part in an art project which will be travelling to the re-scheduled next international climate change conference Cop26 in Glasgow 2021.

Monthly moth events 1 hour on Friday Eve – 1 hour on the following Saturday morning virtually visiting sites around Devon. For live talks, book via Eventbrite, join by Zoom

Field Studies Council Virtual Meetups – talks on wildlife projects and subjects.
Learn about oil beetles, ladybirds, barberry carpet moth, chequered skipper butterfly, dormice, hedgehogs, insect coloration, bees ….

On FSC YouTube VMU channel – new talks added weekly

Cumbria Wildlife Trust talk ‘Averting the Insect Apocalypse' and what we can do at home, by Professor Dave Goulson, leading bumblebee expert, author, one time marker of my undergraduate essays …

You can learn more about insect-friendly gardening from Dave's YouTube channel, and his books A Sting in the Tale, A Buzz in the Meadow, Bee Quest and the latest The Garden Jungle. You can also look at his research papers.

Monday, 19 February 2018

If on a winter's night a traveller ...

Out on a nocturnal expedition, and discovered I wasn’t the only one.

A shape on the path, its coloration blending in orangely with the surroundings under the sodium light, adumbrated by shadow. There as still as a statue, as if it had both just materialised that instant and also been there all along for centuries, was a large frog, squatting crouched in its sumo pose, jewel eye impassively taking in the scene, weighing up a next move.

Time and toad wait for no one ....

A few more steps and there was another, then another, and a mature palmate newt, then another newt, a toad, then more toads and frogs, at intervals along the church path. All 3 of our common species were on the march, on one short brief stretch of urban Exeter footpath. One could imagine the earth had belched them up from some netherworldly subterranean place, an amphibian version of a Stanley Spencer mass resurrection for spring.

The last few nights had been mild and wet, constantly damp, intermittent rain, then more rain, with nocturnal temperatures tipping above 5oC. This must have been the trigger to stir from hibernation, emerging from damp corners of gardens from under stones, paths, sheds, and the soil.

It’s easy to forget about the terrestrial part of the amphibian lifecycle, and that most of the amphibian year is spent away from the pond - apart from the breeding season. In these squally warmer wet nights, the moist atmosphere aids breathing through the skin and gives less risk of dehydration, plus means that ditches and ponds may be filling up. Collective emergence gives better odds that any one individual will survive the gathering attention of predators.
Toadzilla, on the march (on some screens this may be too dark to see)
It’s said that the older and larger individuals make the migration trek earlier, possibly trading off safety in return for the chance to claim first the best breeding opportunities. Certainly the participants in this evening’s ‘frogtide’ were mature animals, collisions leading to amplexus grabs and toads inflating in alarm, presaging the contests to come. Soon there will be spawn, soon spring will be on the way.